South Valley Civic Theatre will take over operations of the popular South County theater

Elizabeth Mandel

For the past nine years Limelight Actors Theater has provided an intimate theater experience for enthusiastic patrons at the Gilroy Center for the Arts. Limelight was the brainchild of actor Kevin Heath who created the theater company in part as an enticement to bring people to the center.

After nine years as a member of  the Gilroy Arts Alliance and Limelight’s executive director — and after 43 Limelight productions — Kevin and his husband and theater company co-owner, Alan Obata, are moving away. South Valley Civic Theatre (SVCT) will be assuming management of Limelight.

Rosalind Farotte, a popular actress on the Limelight stage, reacted positively to SVCT’s plans.

“Limelight has been a haven for fine theater, great camaraderie, and enduring friendships,” she said. “I was greatly saddened by the loss of our leaders, Alan and Kevin, and the apparent demise of Limelight Actors Theater. However, I am delighted that South Valley Civic Theatre has decided to step in and hold this theater and its family together. Under the direction of SVCT, Limelight will continue to be a unique and treasured part of our artistic community. A fond farewell and a warm welcome to new beginnings.”

SVCT has just completed its 50th season of providing live theater in the South Valley. While SVCT is the resident theater company of the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse, its roots are in Gilroy. In 1969, Gilroy Community Theatre was established by a dedicated group of Gilroy residents and volunteers.

It was not until 1985 that GCT changed its name to South Valley Civic Theatre and expanded performance locations beyond Gilroy to include Hollister and Morgan Hill. SVCT settled in Morgan Hill in 2003, after construction of the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse was completed.

With its small “black box” stage, Limelight Theater would normally produce three shows every year, a mix of comedies and thought-provoking dramas. Meanwhile, in the Playhouse, SVCT’s annual season features five productions, typically a mix of family and adult musicals, teen and children’s musicals, and a comedy or drama.

With acquisition of this second venue in Gilroy, SVCT anticipates continuing with a combined mix of eight plays and musicals.

SVCT also will strive to retain the features of Limelight that have made it unique and successful, such as the small, intimate cabaret theater experience and the option to bring your own dinner and enjoy a glass of wine during the show.

Actor and director JoAnna Evans supports SVCT’s direction.

“I have had the privilege of being involved with Limelight since its inception,” she said. “I have both directed and acted in numerous productions. Limelight has been dear to my heart for providing a venue that produces not only comedy but comedy with heart, dramas, and small musicals. Kevin Heath has not been afraid to explore tough topics like Alzheimer’s, aging, coming out, divorce and toxic family secrets.

“I have sat in the dark in the audience and listened to the whispers around me; ‘Oh that’s so true!’, ‘Wow, that hits close to home,’ and ‘I love coming here.’ I was so happy to hear the theater would not close but would continue as a part of SVCT, with which I have also been active. My hope is that SVCT will continue to use Limelight as an intimate, high-quality, small venue for mainstream and ‘edgy’ plays and musicals.”

Scott Lynch, SVCT board president and a familiar presence on both Limelight’s and SVCT’s stages, looks forward to SVCT’s growth and expansion to Gilroy.

“As we begin our second half-century of providing live theater in the South Valley, we  are excited about this opportunity to offer SVCT performances at this second venue, while preserving the unique characteristics of Limelight Actors Theater,” Lynch said.

Kevin echoes Scott’s enthusiasm by saying, “Although it was a difficult decision to close Limelight, we couldn’t be happier with SVCT’s decision to continue the brand of theater we created. The community will be very pleased with what they will experience with the next generation of Limelight.”

Elizabeth Mandel is vice president of publicity for South Valley Civic Theatre. She wrote this column for Gilroy Life.

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